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My husband’s family has been vacationing at Sardine Lake every year for over 30 years, and I have been tagging along since we started dating in 1998. We’ve been at Sardine Lake as a couple, with babies, toddlers, kids and teens. My now adult niece and nephews make it a priority to be there every summer, flying in from across the country and over foreign borders.
Over the years, we have thoroughly explored the Sardine Lake area in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. Located just 45 miles north of Truckee, the area boasts stunning mountain peaks and lush pine forests.
It is a beautiful place filled with special memories.
This post is all about Sardine Lake.
Sardine Lake: Why It’s a Can’t-Miss Stop in the Sierra Nevada
Where to Stay at Sardine Lake
Sardine Lake Resort
As our annual family vacation, we have been staying at Sardine Lake Resort for years. It boasts nine, hand-crafted, rustic log cabins, ranging from one room to two bedrooms. Known more for their views and convenience rather than luxury, each cabin is equipped with a small kitchen, sitting area, bathroom and towels, bedding and a deck. Every cabin also has a beautiful view, some of which are waterfront with a small gravel road separating the cabins from Sardine Lake.
Sardine Lake Resort is the kind of nostalgic place where the same families rent the same cabins for the same week every year. Because of this, we have become friends with many of the people who vacation the same week we do. SLR the kind of place where everyone hangs out on their decks and cocktails are shared amongst families and friends.
Sardine Lake Resort is a summertime playground since the area gets heavy snowfall in the winter. Only two of the cabins are winterized and are accessible by snow mobile. If you are interested in staying here during the summer, you will be placed on a waiting list and will receive a call if a cabin becomes available.
On-Site Restaurant & Bar
The resort also has a fine dining restaurant located on the lakefront with first-rate chefs hand crafting freshly prepared dishes. Open nightly for dinner with two seatings at 6pm and 8pm, this restaurant is a popular place and reservations should be made in advance. Like many guests at the resort, we always enjoy our last’s night dinner here.
In addition to the restaurant, Poor George’s Lakeside Bar is a unique little building at the end of the dock, right on the water. Here, you can enjoy a full service bar after a day of fishing or grab a cocktail before dinner.
We’ve been taking family pictures in the same spot at lower Sardine Lake every year. It’s so fun to look at past years, especially watching as couples have become families and babies have become teenagers and adults.
Just up the road from Sardine Lake Resort, is Sardine Campground. There are only 29 sites, 15 of which are for trailers. Camping spots are quite close together, so this isn’t a great option if you have an oversized trailer. On the plus side, there are toilets and the water is potable water. We rarely see empty spaces at this campground, so you will want to be sure to have a reservation to stay here.
Several other options for camping are available all throughout the area; you will just have to drive to get to Sardine Lake. Like most Sierra Nevada campgrounds, Sardine Campground is only open in the summer.
Within walking distance from both the resort and the campground, you will find the local swimming hole, also known as the sand pond. The sand pond is great for swimming, rafting, kayaking and catching frogs and water snakes. My kids still hang out here as teenagers. When they were younger, these wave kayaks provided endless hours of entertainment. You can also access trailheads for hiking at the sand pond.
Other Resorts in the Area
There are other lakeside resorts in the area. I haven’t stayed at any of them, but we have gone for breakfast and dinner at some of their restaurants. Each lakeside resort has a community feel and faithful visitors who return year after year. I use the word “resort” loosely here. Like Sardine Lake Resort, it is about being on the lake with a few amenities like boat rentals and a restaurant. The star of the show at these resorts is the stunning nature in which they are situated.
Lower Sardine Lake
The more accessible of the two lakes, Lower Sardine Lake is popular with fishing enthusiasts. It is filled with trout at the beginning of each season, and you are likely to see several boats on the lake during the daylight hours. Boat rentals are also available at Sardine Lake Resort’s lodge. Although you can’t swim in lower Sardine Lake, it is a great lake for fishing, kayaking and canoeing. The Sierra Buttes are an impressive sight from here.
Upper Sardine Lake
Located just up a rough, rocky unpaved road from the lower lake, you will find upper Sardine Lake. It is a relatively easy climb up the road. But be warned, the pavement ends at Sardine Lake Resort, and it is not recommended to take a two wheel drive or low profile vehicle to upper Sardine. Every year, we watch as cars have to turn around on a the narrow, one way dirt road. It’s a beautiful place to swim, and you will cool down quickly in this high altitude lake!
Things To Do
Sardine Lake is in the Lakes Basin Recreation Area of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Northern California. These stunning mountains offer a plethora of endless outdoor activities. From numerous crystal clear lakes to an abundance of hiking trails, you will find there is plenty of adventure waiting for you!
This area is especially great for families. We come here every year and with different interests, everyone has something to do. My sister-in-laws and I love to read by the lake while others in the group fish. We love to explore the dirt roads with bikes and off-roading. Three generations play disc golf, while others can golf at any of the beautiful high mountain golf courses in the surrounding area.
And, of course, there are more trails to hike than you probably have time for. Many of these trails give way to breath taking views of mountains, valleys and gorgeously blue lakes. Even better, you can find hikes for all levels of fitness and interest.
Neighboring Towns to Explore
Nearby, you will find the town of Graeagle. This small town has a few resorts surrounding it, quaint shops, art galleries and restaurants. In addition, you can ride horses and play mini golf. In the winter, Graeagle is a great place for cross country skiing and snowmobiling. We like going to Graeagle for the coffee shops and quick wifi check in.
Located in the other direction is Downieville, a historic town which is popular amongst mountain bike fans. Every summer, our friends participate in the grueling mountain biking competition, the Downieville Classic. The town is also known for its Downieville Downhill trail that drops over 4,000 feet across 17 miles. If you are a mountain biking fan, this place is for you!
With so much do to, you can easily see why Sardine Lake is a must-do stop in the Sierra Nevada.
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